Spring Break 2011: Where to Go and Where to Avoid

Posted Jan 24th 2011 04:45 PMUpdated Feb 11th 2011 11:26 AM


Spring Break 2011

It's simple math: warm climate + cheap hotels = an optimum spring break location. And every March and April, beach towns around the U.S., Caribbean and Mexico that fit the equation are flooded with students looking to let off some steam. If an alcohol-fueled fest isn't your idea of fun, here's where to go -- and where to avoid.

Go: Negril, Jamaica
Less frenetic than its Montego Bay sister, Negril's West End is known for its chill, but fun environment. You can let (relatively) loose at all-inclusives like Breezes or Couples -- the Red Stripe and rum punch flow freely, but over intoxication is frowned upon. Or choose to kick back at a low-key resort like the Rockhouse Hotel, where the reggae is on rotation and the days are unplanned. Either way, there are different degrees of fun to be had, but all still deliver a healthy dose of island flavor.

Avoid: Nassau, Bahamas
The legal age for drinking and gambling is 18 on this island, inspiring reckless behavior for virgin Texas Hold'em players, who may find success with Lady Luck and find themselves flashing newfound cash. Crime rates have risen to record highs in the last few years, with more incidents against tourists than ever before. Increased complaints of muggings have been filed with Bahamian police and the government tourism board has acknowledged the problems. In November of 2009, 29 cruise ship passengers were robbed while on the island, creating an even greater need to exercise caution, even in paradise.

Go: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
This East Coast city was dubbed "Fort Liquordale" until 1985, when the mayor went on ABC's Good Morning America and told college students they were no longer welcome to come tear up the town. Now many areas of Fort Lauderdale draw an upscale crowd due to new hotels like the W Fort Lauderdale, trendy restaurants like Johnny V, and first-rate shopping on Las Olas Boulevard. And while there are still beach-bum spots along the ocean, the vibe has definitely changed for the better.

Avoid: Daytona Beach, Florida
When Fort Lauderdale officials put the kibosh on the decades-long, out-of-control Spring Break scene, the party moved four hours north to Daytona. The city quickly became a hit and has since been a constant newsmaker and cautionary tale, especially last year when six rapes were reported in one week. Plus, there are hotels that advertise rooms for "triples" and "quads," obviously courting a crowd uninterested in decent digs. And anywhere Girls Gone Wild producers like to hang out, we'd suggest bypassing.

Go: Riviera Maya, Mexico
Less than an hour south from Cancun, this newly developed area is beachy keen without trying too hard to compete with its party-hearty neighbor. Great for families and couples on vacation, there are plenty of resorts, both all-inclusive (Azul Sensatori) and a la carte (Fairmont Mayakoba) as well as smaller hotels like the affordable Deseo.

Avoid: Cancun, Mexico
Despite the government push to rid the city of its Spring Break image, accidents aplenty occur in this sunny spot, lending to its continuous bad rep. The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18, which is said to be rarely enforced. No doubt the relaxed rules have led to judgment laps in otherwise trustworthy teens. Cheap tequila is plentiful at debauchery encouraging establishments, which has led to violence. Last year, a 21-year old from New Jersey was beaten into a coma and found by a security guard near his hotel's pool.

Go: Maui, Hawaii
More laid back than Oahu's Waikiki Beach, Maui is an island that attracts a gentler group of travelers, especially in the coastal Kapalua and Lahaina areas. Here people are interested in authentic luaus and restaurants that serve innovative dishes with ingredients from local farms. Whale watching excursions are especially fun this time of year, and those intent on getting their first surf lesson have a wealth of areas to choose from including super laid-back Paia town. The granola crowd will feel at home as will young couples and easy-going families.

Avoid: Las Vegas, Nevada
MTV is celebrating 25 seasons of its Real World reality series by returning to Las Vegas for another show, this time at the Hard Rock Hotel. Coincidentally, the network will also host a 2011 Spring Break event at the Palms. If the televised antics are any measure, where teeny-bikini clad girls and obviously intoxicated gents gyrate on stages, imagine what goes on behind the camera. Those who are old enough to remember the first Real World in 1992 may want to stay away.

Go: Charleston, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach has long commanded (un)wanted attention from the Spring Break crowd, but the intrepid traveler should head to Charleston for a slice of Southern comfort. The pace here is decidedly slower, hijinks aren't tolerated, and the focus is generally on good food and fun. And quiet beaches are just 15 minutes from the historic city. Though the Atlantic Ocean might be too chilly for swimming this time of year, you can still spend the days walking the strands, collecting sand dollars, bike riding, and hanging out in peace. That's what we call a Spring Break.

Avoid: South Padre Island, Texas
Though relatively calm during other parts of the year, Spring Break seems to dramatically change SPI's mood. The city has issued repeat warnings to college students about the dangers of binge drinking (a study published by the Journal of American College Health reported that during spring break, the average male reported drinking 18 drinks per day and the average woman consumed 10). In 2010, a local resident flagged down police when a young drunk man entered her house while her two children were still sleeping in their beds. Another issue is the proximity to the drug-plagued Mexican border towns like Matamoros. A U.S. State Department warning discourages travel to those areas, which have been in the news for gang related violence, which has affected innocent bystanders.

Photo: eviemaedavid, Flickr

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March 03 2011 at 10:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kelly Morris

I echo Dan Quandt's comments about South Padre Island. The Island is a great place for anyone of ANY age to visit. Spring Break happens to be a traditional time for college age kids to travel there to enjoy the sun and the beach and time away from their studies. South Padre Island places the safety of these and all visitors as a primary objective. For many of these Spring Breakers South Padre Island becomes for them a place to return year after year. It is a safe, FUN, charming spot with tons to do and see during Spring Break and ANY other time.

February 11 2011 at 12:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rails are great

Best place for Spring Break: Chicago!!! When I was in grad school at University of Wisconsin in the 1980s, I spent a few days in Chicago. I stayed at a friend's apartment. It rained, it snowed and I remember it raining and snowing at the same time. I looked into a job prospect, rode the Chicago Transit Authority and the South Shore Line, enjoyed the city's wonderful architecture and had a few beers. A good time in Chicago is a redundant statement.

February 07 2011 at 8:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Went to Daytona Beach for spring break last year and a bunch of us from the University of Kentucky are returning this March. Had a great time and had no problems. Even the police officiers we encountered on the street corners will polite and helpful. It isn't costing us an arm and a leg and I know we will have another great time.

February 04 2011 at 9:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

New York,

Obviously you have never been to Puerto Vallarta.
There are no college kids spring breaking here or AARP would not have voted it as best "retirement city in the world".
You sir are a lair.
If you ever make it across the Continental Divide then turn 700 miles south of the border you might learn something.

February 04 2011 at 2:30 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

....where I'd still be if my husband hadn't gotten transferred. Daytona has the best walking beach of any beach I've ever been on, and I've been to a lot of beaches. Miles and miles and miles. Last I heard (and I have family there), the city by and large doesn't encourage spring breakers because they are....sorry, guys, destructive. And please, no matter where you go on spring break, don't drink so much that you think climbing from balcony to balcony is a good idea. Every year, some young idiot(s) get killed doing this. Such a waste. Have fun, but live to tell about it!

February 03 2011 at 4:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'd like to comment on the whole "spring break" thing.

As the parent of a daughter in her sophomore year of college and a former spring-breaker myself (yeah it was awhile ago but nonetheless), I continue to be amazed at how naive and/or stupid parents these days can be. By and large, parents of today's teens and college students have raised an entire generation of spoiled, undisciplined brats who grew up having everything given to them, ruling the household with their "wants," and never having to experience consequences for their actions or choices. These same parents with no backbone then fund their kid's spring break, probably because of the old tried-and-true "guilt trip" their kids put on them - "well mommy and daddy, if you loved me and trusted me, you would let me go " So the parents cave (like they've done Princess's entire life) and fund the trip... unleashing a spoiled, naive "party girl" ill-equipped to deal with consequences for her actions. Why? Because she wasn't RAISED to think that way. Then when the kid comes home with liver damage, a slut reputation, legal troubles, and most likely an STD (if not knocked-up), the parents are SHOCKED!

My advice to parents: Don't send your 19-year-old off to spring break unless you've raised them properly from ages 1-18. If you do and you haven't, don't be shocked when sh!t happens.

February 03 2011 at 3:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I would like to let everyone know that Daytona Beach isn't as bad as they put it in this article. There are deals here and it's not so 'overcrowded.' I work in a hotel and been down here in the area for 11 years and know that it is a good place to come.

February 03 2011 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm sorry???????????????

Why do you think I go to Vegas and Daytona???????
Drunk, Young, Naked Girls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

February 03 2011 at 1:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

actually it's a good place to go and see how mothers have failed and given us a generation of godless little $lut$. Morality is the basis of humanity, without it, we have nothing and 98% of this world has become completely void of Morality. Then they go crazy over the effects their immorality has on society. Most of those fools in Egypt, in a month or two or less when they are reaping the harvest of their looting, burning, raping, pillaging and plundering won't have the God given sense of a piss ant to realize that they were responsible for the mess they will be in. YOu look at these hook-up programs on TV and couples openly letting you know that they're fkn this person and that person right before millions. Who the hell with any value would want a woman or man they've seen on national TV screwing another person??? YOu can laugh about it all you want but just wait until that person settles into a real relationship and those things come up, and they certainly will experience, the doubt, the suspicion, the distrust. That's why marriages are failing so horribly because most today have the morals of a damn pit bull in heat.

February 03 2011 at 1:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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